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Definition

Exploratory play is a common term used for the very early stages of play with objects in infancy when the child is exploring the physical properties of objects by grasping, biting/mouthing, rotating while looking, rubbing/stroking, hitting, dropping and so on. It develops by around the age of one year into what is sometimes termed ‘heuristic play’ where ways of combining objects are often explored, for example: putting one object inside another or joining objects together.

Aureli, T. et al. (2015) Behavioral and facial thermal variations in 3-to 4-month-old infants during the Still-Face Paradigm (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Behavioral and facial thermal responses were recorded in twelve 3- to 4-month-old infants during the Still-Face Paradigm (SFP). As in the usual procedure, infants were observed in a three-step, face-to-face interaction: a normal interaction episode (3 min); the "still-face" episode in which the mother became unresponsive and assumed a neutral expression (1 min); a reunion episode in which the mother resumed the interaction (3 min). A fourth step that consisted of a toy play episode (5 min) was added for our own research interest. We coded the behavioral responses through the Infant and Caregiver Engagement Phases system, and recorded facial skin temperature via thermal infrared (IR) imaging. Comparing still-face episode to play episode, the infants' communicative engagement decreased, their engagement with the environment increased, and no differences emerged in self-regulatory and protest behaviors. We also found that facial skin temperature increased. For the behavioral results, infants recognized the interruption of the interactional reciprocity caused by the still-face presentation, without showing upset behaviors. According to autonomic results, the parasympathetic system was more active than the sympathetic, as usually happens in aroused but not distressed situations. With respect to the debate about the causal factor of the still-face effect, thermal data were consistent with behavioral data in showing this effect as related to the infants' expectations of the nature of the social interactions being violated. Moreover, as these are associated to the infants' subsequent interest in the environment, they indicate the thermal IR imaging as a reliable technique for the detection of physiological variations not only in the emotional system, as indicated by research to date, but also in the attention system. Using this technique for the first time during the SFP allowed us to record autonomic data in a more ecological manner than in previous studies.

Date:
January 2015
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
6
Page/s:
1586
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Exploratory play
  • Parent/Guardian play
  • Play with Mother
  • Self-regulation
  • Social-emotional
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Bergen, D. (2009) Play and Brain Development as Complementary Non Lonear Dynamic (Chaotic / Complex) Systems (Conference Paper)

Conner, J. et al. (2014) A Play and Language Intervention for Two-Year-Old Children: Implications for Improving Play Skills and Language (Journal Article)

Abstract:

The purpose of this study was to develop an intervention for 2-year-old children to enhance play and language skills. The intervention was implemented over a 4-week period and included components of reading, modeling, and positive reinforcement of language and play. Specifically, children were read a story and played with a matching toy set. Participants included 10 children, all age 2, who attended a child care center. Five participants received the play intervention, and five were used as comparison. All children were assessed using the Play in Early Childhood Evaluation System (PIECES), the Preschool Language Scale (PLS), and a Vocabulary Assessment. The results of this study showed that children who received the intervention increased pretend play more than the comparison group and also increased comprehension and expressive communication skills more than the comparison group. Implications for early childhood educators and parents are discussed.

Date:
January 2014
Volume:
28
Page/s:
221-237
Synonyms:
  • Academic outcomes
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Exploratory play
  • Language
  • Peers play
  • Play assessment
  • Pretend play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Cook, C. et al. (2011) Where science starts: Spontaneous experiments in preschoolers’ exploratory play (Journal Article)

Abstract:
Date:
January 2011
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
120
Page/s:
341-349
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Experimental
  • Exploratory play
  • Object play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Dansereau, D. (2015) Young Children's Interactions with Sound-Producing Objects (Journal Article)

Abstract:

The purpose of this study was to observe, analyze, and document the range of young children's interactions with sound-producing objects in order to better understand the nature of such interactions. Of particular interest was whether theories of cognitive play, social play, object play, and existing research on musical play could guide concurrently the interpretation of children's interactions with these objects and whether the interactions were consistent with these theories. Two groups of participants, nine 3-year-old children and seven 4-year-old children, played with sound-producing objects for approximately 15 min once a week for 12 weeks. Participants interacted with the objects in rich and varied ways, including explorations of the objects' sound-producing capabilities and other physical attributes, nonmusical and musical functional and pretend play episodes, and construction behaviors. Movement and singing often were layered upon the children's interactions with the objects. Musical functional play was the most frequently observed behavior across both ages of participants. The children were more likely to engage in solitary/parallel behaviors than group interactions, and group interactions were more common among the 4-year-old children than the 3-year-olds. All behaviors that were anticipated via the conceptual framework were observed, with the exception of group nonmusic exploration.

Author/s:
Date:
January 2015
Volume:
63
Page/s:
28-46
Synonyms:
  • Exploratory play
  • Functional play
  • Musical play
  • Peers play
  • Play assessment
  • Pretend play
  • Semiotic play
  • Solitary play
  • Construction play
Relevant age group/s:

DeLoache, J. et al. (1985) The Development of Error Correction Strategies in Young Children's Manipulative Play (Journal Article)

Abstract:

The focus of this study was the strategies used by young children between 18 and 42 months for correcting the errors they made as they attempted to nest a set of 5 seriated cups. In the process of combining the cups, the children committed numerous errors (such as putting a cup that was too large on a smaller cup), and they tried to correct the majority of those errors. Detailed examination of the children's correction attempts revealed that the strategies they used changed substantially with age, becoming increasingly more flexible and involving more extensive restructuring of the relations among the cups. Earlier correction attempts tended to focus on a single, nonfitting cup or on a single relation between 2 cups. Later-appearing strategies involved the coordination of relations involving several cups. The same trend toward increasing flexibility of thought and action also appeared in the procedures the children used to combine the cups. This study thus documents a finely graded series of cognitively significant changes in children's constructive activity during a period that has been poorly differentiated by cognitive developmental research. In so doing, it demonstrates the usefulness for problem-solving research of analyzing how subjects go about trying to rectify their own mistakes.

Date:
January 1985
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
56
Page/s:
928-939
Synonyms:
  • Cross-sectional
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Exploratory play
  • Functional play
  • Object play
  • Problem-solving
Research discipline:

Erickson, S. et al. (2012) Differential ethnic associations between maternal flexibility and play sophistication in toddlers born very low birth weight (Journal Article)

Fallon, J. et al. (2013) Free play time of children with learning disabilities in a noninclusive preschool setting: An analysis of play and nonplay behaviours. (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Some children with disabilities go to special preschools where adults help them play. The adults who work in preschools sometimes ask occupational therapists for advice to help children play more. Occupational therapists need to know how children play when not helped by adults. This study videoed children playing both with lots of toys and without toys to see how they chose to play. Within the Republic of Ireland, young children with learning disabilities may attend special preschools where they do not share any part of their day with typically developing children. Within these settings, preschool staff support children's play. Clinicians such as occupational therapists may be called upon to assist in progressing their play. To provide appropriate recommendations, occupational therapists must have a clear understanding of what play a child with learning disabilities engages in when not supported by adults. Occupational therapy literature described play as the most common occupation of children with a focus on process‐driven activity. This may be at odds with a model of early intervention, where play is often product‐driven, with the end goal in mind. The aim of this research was to establish what free play, if any, children with learning disabilities engage in when not supported by adults in an Irish preschool setting. Secondly, this study sought to describe what behaviours these children engage in when they were not playing. Finally, this study sought to establish inter‐rater reliability of the Revised Know Preschool Play Scale with this small sample. Systematic observation was used to explore the play and nonplay behaviours of the children involved. A convenience sample was used to identify five children to participate in the study. Results indicated that children engaged in free play within the sensory motor stage of development, as assessed using the Revised Knox Preschool Play Scale. They also spent significant time in nonplay behaviours. The behaviour patterns of the children and time spent in different activities were explored. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved). (journal abstract)

Author/s:
Date:
January 2013
Volume:
41
Page/s:
212-219
Synonyms:
  • Atypical development
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Engagement
  • Exploratory play
  • Free play
  • Object play
  • Playfulness
  • Pretend play
  • Social-emotional
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Fearn, M. et al. (2012) Play as a Resource for Children Facing Adversity: An Exploration of Indicative Case Studies (Journal Article)

Abstract:

In this paper, we suggest that the ability and opportunity to play affords children a natural resource to meet intellectual and emotional challenge. Analysis of case studies focusing on interventions with children caught in the bombing of Beirut, children abandoned to the state system in Romania, and the street children in Rio de Janeiro and Cali is used to support this view. When resources are in deficit, challenge is more likely to become adversity. The impact of adversity is particular to context, but comparison across contexts also shows connections between children’s disparate experiences. Analysis confirms that given the opportunity, children interact with and influence their environment through play and that this process provides a resource to meet the challenge of adversity.

Author/s:
Date:
January 2012
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
26
Page/s:
456-468
Synonyms:
  • Exploratory play
  • Games with rules
  • Mental health
  • Pretend play
  • Socio-economic background
  • Well-being outcomes
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Gaskins, S. (2000) Children's Daily Activities in a Mayan Village: A Culturally Grounded Description (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Building on recent efforts to reconceptualize development and socialization as contextually grounded processes, several aspects of Yucatec Mayan children's daily lives are observed, including maintenance activities, social orientation, work, and play. For each category of activity, the behavior of children ranging in age from 0 to 17 is described. Three principles of engagement generated to explain the Mayan cultural context (primacy of adult work, parental beliefs, and independence of child motivation) are used to interpret the descriptive data, illustrating how cultural understanding enables a meaningful interpretation of Mayan children's behavior and how lack of knowledge of these principles could lead to a misinterpretation through a Western cultural lens.

Author/s:
Date:
January 2000
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
34
Page/s:
375-389
Synonyms:
  • Exploratory play
  • Physical play
  • Pretend play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline: